Freedom to fine?

One of the over-arching constitutional principles of the UK - set down in the 1688 Bill of Rights is this: "That the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parlyament."

I wonder if anyone's mentioned this to the European Court of Human Rights, who seem to be in the process of setting rather an interesting precedent.

The Grand Chamber of the ECHR has issued what amounts to a preliminary judgement overturning disciplinary action by the Parliament of Hungary against two groups of opposition MPs who staged demonstrations against the ruling FIDESZ party. Among other things they unfurled banners, used megaphones in the chamber and placed a small wheelbarrow full of soil in front of the prime minister.

The Parliament punished them with fines ranging from 170 to 600 euros - and the MPs complained to the court that the decision violated their rights under Article 10 of the European Convention (Freedom of Speech) and under Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) because they had no mechanism to appeal against their fines.

The Court upheld their complaints and ordered the fines to be repaid.

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Summer lull

When will the Commons network of select committees be up and running and scrutinising ministers?

Tonight another piece of the jigsaw will fall into place when Labour MPs elect colleagues to places on the various committees (the Conservatives have already done so) - but then the House will have to go through the formalities of setting the committees. A motion will have to go on the Order Paper and will probably be waved through without debate.

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Week ahead

Deck chairs in Green Park

Summer time, and the legislating is easy; two Commons days of Scottish detail, one Opposition Day and a general debate on international security.

And a not dissimilar week in the Lords. It's the calm before George Osborne unleashes his Budget the following week.

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Votes for teens

It's been tried for the EU Referendum Bill, there's a precedent from the Scottish referendum, and now another new front in the battle for votes at 16 has just been opened.

Next Monday's Lords committee stage debate on the City Devolution Bill will include a Lab-Lib amendment calling for the voting age to be lowered in elections for the proposed new Metro mayors…. and all council elections.

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Week ahead

Is this the moment when (fanfare...) the Liberal Democrats strike back?

This week the Lib Dem peers put down a series of amendments to the Psychoactive Substances Bill which would effectively shelve it until there had been a thorough independent review of the whole spectrum of drug laws.

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Restoration comedy

State opening of Parliament

Picture the scene. It's May 2020 and the new House of Commons assembles for the State Opening of Parliament.

It could be a rather piquant occasion, as the newcomers blink at the hallowed green benches, and reflect that they may never sit on them again.

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Week ahead

Workman on roof of Parliament

Brace yourself for a couple of big Parliamentary events that won't be in the chambers of the Commons or Lords.

On Wednesday we'll have the result of the elections for the (contested) select committee chairs, and on Thursday there will be a report published on the options for the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster - which will provide an early indication of whether MPs and peers may have to move out for several years, while the many problems with their main building are fixed.

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Who will run the Select Committees?

Home Affairs Select Committee

Sometime during the 2001-05 Parliament an MP complained to me "in a select committee, no-one can hear you scream". *

Since then the power of the Commons network of committees shadowing government departments or pursuing cross-cutting issues has risen sharply.

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Week ahead

From the generalised debates on the Queen's Speech, Parliament makes a handbrake turn into hard legislating this week - with both Houses devoting much of their time to second reading debates on a series of heavyweight bills.

In the Commons, it's the Scotland Bill and the EU Referendum Bill - and the House will move with unusual rapidity into detailed debate on both, the following week.

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Week ahead

John Bercow
The Speaker was elected last week - and now presides over the House's debate on the Queen's Speech until the deputy speakers are elected

Parliament's back, but not yet firing on all cylinders.

The Commons select committee system will be kick-started with a motion to re-establish it on Wednesday, but the chairs and the ordinary members will not be in place for a couple of weeks yet. With no legislation to be processed, the only real action is in the main chambers with the Commons and Lords' respective debates on the content of the Queen's Speech.

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